It’s good to see the blogstorm around the pros and cons of literary translation gather steam. Peter Kirk and Henry Neufeld are meeting my arguments head on with arguments of their own in favor of clear, accurate, and natural translations in the mold of TNIV.
Doug Chaplin, as I have come to expect from him, adds some arresting observations. First of all, he notes that Peter Kirk (and Henry Neufeld) and I are not as far apart as it might appear from the ongoing back-and-forth.
Let me exemplify. The Gideon Bibles to be found in hotel rooms and distributed on university campuses are still by and large KJV in small print all-prose format. The congregation I serve is a supporter of Gideons International, but let me state my views clearly: the organization fails to be true to its goals by distributing KJV and in that format. The Gideons would be taking two giant steps forward if they distributed NKJV in a format that allows for visual tracking of content and formats poetry as such.
It won’t happen, I realize – it is too much of a stretch for the culture of the organization in question – but I would be even more pleased if Gideons distributed other translations as well. TNIV and CEV come to mind as suitable in a number of contexts.
The differences between Peter and Henry and me come, I think, at the level of expectations for adult readers. The kind of translation I would like to see in the pews of my congregation (for the record, it’s NIV), to hear read before the sermon and to be used for personal study (for the record, it’s everything from NKJV to the Message) does not yet exist. It would be a literary, dynamic equivalent translation of the kind I’m working on for Old Testament passages I’ve studied in depth.
[PLEASE NOTE: the above paragraph, which I retain so that the ensuing comment thread remains comprehensible, is sloppily written. My meaning: the Bible translation of my dreams for worship and private study does not yet exist. The Bibles currently used in those settings in my congregation (for the record, NIV, etc.) tend to simplify the diction of the original language texts and under-represent their literary qualities. The result: a "dynamic equivalent" falsely so-called.]
Peter and Henry prefer a translation like TNIV, which deliberately pitches to a 7th grade level. Since almost all the adults in the congregations I serve or have served read at a 12th grade level or higher, or are progressing in that direction (ed.: they better be, given the way you preach), TNIV is, from my point of view, a dumbed-down translation. It is also not literary enough to be defined as a natural, dynamic equivalent of the original language texts it renders – at least in the case of the literature I know best (Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, etc.).
As far as younger readers go, and ESL readers, Peter, Henry, and I probably see eye-to-eye. In the church I serve, K-4 kids receive an NIrV illustrated scripture anthology; 3rd graders receive an ICB; and 7th graders receive a TNIV.
The text is a strange text, from a culture and a time different from our own. One of the dangers of “clear” translation is that it disguises the need for interpretation, and so in its clarity deceives the reader.
Other links and discussions of the questions touched upon here: Ros Clarke and First Followers. Kevin Edgecomb has contributed some helpful comments to threads on this blog. I look forward to a promised post by Iyov. May the storm continue.